The Legend of Spring-Heeled Jack

Kamie Berry | November 22nd, 2017

Despite the many advances in science and industry that took place in Victorian England, that time period was till full of superstition and paranormal belief. Many people still believed in fairies, phrenology and spiritualism- all things that have since been proven false. Quite a few people also believed in a devil-man called Spring-Heeled Jack.

The first known sighting of Spring-Heeled Jack was in Sheffield, England in the first decade of the 19th century. He was described as a ghost-like figure who could jump incredibly high and far. At this point, he was mostly harmless and limited his adventures to pranks and tame scares.

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When Jack re-emerged in London in the 1830s, his attacks were no longer funny. The demon-like figure was described as having a long nose, pointy ears, and glowing red eyes. He could also breathe fire and jump incredible distances. He focused his assaults on women, either by ambushing them while they were out walking or by attacking them when they opened their front doors. He tore their clothes and scratched them, and sometimes breathed flames into their faces. Then, he would leap away so fast that no one who saw him believed he was human. Supposedly, he was even seen jumping over rooftops.

Jack’s activities were reported all across England, but they became particularly prevalent in an area known as the Black Country in the 1850s. He was once seen jumping from rooftop to rooftop in the main square of one village. Most of his attacks here involved breathing fire into the faces of his victims, scaring them half to death before running away. Once an area was in a panic over sightings of Spring-Heeled Jack, he would disappear for a time before returning months or years later.

He became an iconic figure in Victorian culture, and was often featured in the popular “penny dreadful” novels of the time. Parents would invoke his name when reminding their children to behave and to return home on time. Preachers would use him to scare their parishioners out of staying out late and drinking at the local pub.

Sightings of Jack were intermittent throughout the 1800s, and he even made an appearance at the military base in Aldershot in 1877, where he terrified the guards over a series of weeks. His antics came to an end, though, in 1904, when he made his last known appearance in Liverpool. On this occasion, he leapt down a street, jumped onto a rooftop and ran off into the night, never to be seen again.

The legend of Spring-Heeled Jack is still popular in some circles. He often features in steampunk art and comic books in the present-day. But the mystery behind Jack has never been solved. No one knows how many people, or who, was involved in perpetrating his reign of terror over the people of Victorian England. And no one has yet discovered how he performed his feats of agility, such as jumping onto roofs from the street.

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